‘Settling’ Criminal Activity Comes in Two Flavors

 

The first is chocolate and it’s
relegated to the poor—if you want to make a racial connection to that, be my
guest, the metaphor stands up to scrutiny. The second is (unsurprisingly)
vanilla and yes, that is the choice of the rich and predominantly white although
legally, wealth can occasionally be colorblind.
Let’s dispose of chocolate first,
as it’s far less complicated.

Should those
without money find themselves accused, of course the law allows trial by a jury
of one’s peers.
In its
majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges,
beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread
.”
Ah, indeed it
does. But poverty is an unsuccessful litigant. Poverty is badly represented and
it’s not poverty’s fault, there are so many poor and so few lawyers to
represent them. But poverty is, if nothing else, a survivor. If survival opts
to accept the offered five-year sentence rather than risking the threatened
twenty years, poverty is likely to accept.
Unsurprisingly and
quite tragic to the individual, guilt or innocence is seldom a matter of
interest to crowded courts. It’s difficult, time consuming, often fruitless and
always expensive to root out a jury of peers from under bridges or deep within crowded
slum housing. “We will spare no expense” seldom if ever applies to the
poor, not in the times of Charles Dickens and not now.
Vanilla as a settlement flavor has
by far the sweeter taste and, as one might expect, costs more. Those who can
afford such treats, sleep under no bridges, beg in no streets and steal no loaves
of bread. Harvey Weinstein comes to mind…
…(The New York
Times, Dec 11, 2019)
After two years of legal wrangling, Harvey
Weinstein and the board of his bankrupt film studio have reached a tentative
$25 million settlement agreement with dozens of his alleged sexual misconduct
victims, a deal that would not require the Hollywood producer to admit
wrongdoing or pay anything to his accusers himself, according to lawyers
involved in the negotiations
.
How quaint. How understandable
in today’s moral environment. What a slap in the face to all who still
maintain we are a nation ruled by law. How utterly disheartening.
Half the $25 mil
(if it is agreed) goes to attorneys and not a single cent from Weinstein’s
pocket. It absolves him of all further litigation and includes no
admission of guilt
. How’s that for justice?
But enough of Harvey. He is the symptom
and not the disease.
The disease is
best illustrated by the scales of justice—that grand image of equality before
all men—balanced by crime on one side and money on the other.
The Sackler family, major players
and profiteers in the opioid epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of
Americans
over the past ten years are currently offering a settlement that absolves
them of all criminal prosecution and leaves them $billions in assets.
Really?
 
Wasn’t it Stalin who said “The
death of a single person is a tragedy. The death of 100,000 is a news event
.”
Who among us can
afford two years of legal wrangling, millions in legal costs and additional
millions in appeals all the way up the judicial ladder?
Harvey can, as well as the
Sacklers, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Amazon, Pfizer, Johnson and
Johnson and the list goes on.
Individuals as
well as major corporations—entities that constantly ask for our trust—keep
separate legal slush funds, as high as $40 billion among some banks in
order to fight litigation by their own clients.
Wells Fargo
Bank reached a $386 million deal to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by
customers who say the bank forced them to buy unnecessary auto insurance, reached
a $575 million settlement with all 50 states and the District of Columbia to
resolve allegations it had engaged in various abuses of its customers,
including opening millions of sham accounts they did not want and sets aside
$1.6 billion for new fake account payouts
.
Access Google for “total us
financial settlements 2018”
and you won’t find anything even close to an
answer. What I’ve mentioned here is just the tiniest sliver in the ass of
prosperity. And that’s not a complaint along the lines of ‘the rich get rich
and the poor get poorer’
—we’ve had that forever in American society.
The complaint is
that small thieves are in prison for life and enormous thieves
live out their lives in luxury—all within a nation that purports to believe all
men to be created equal in the eyes of the law
.
That is simply
a bald-faced lie in modern America
. It flies in the face of reality. When
an entire nation makes the claim of equity and practices inequity
on a daily basis, it can no longer call itself a nation under law with a
straight face.
The evidence is everywhere. When we
struggle to pay our taxes and Amazon pays not a dime, public willingness to be
taxed disappears. When banks retain huge funds to litigate financial crimes against
their own customers
, we can but wonder what’s gone awry. When drug
manufacturers profit by killing people and walk free, we lose all faith in
humanity.
Does it matter? Of
course it matters.
But do we care? I
wish I had an answer for that.

 

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